Earlier this month, my husband and I moved across state lines to start anew in North Carolina. Everything about the move was exciting – well, except for the packing and the driving. But otherwise, I love moving. I love being in new places, meeting new people, trying new things. That goes for finding a new church as well.
I like trying out different cultural worship styles and I feel blessed that I’ve been able to participate in a handful. I can’t really choose a favorite style of Mass – I really enjoyed the one Mass I ever participated in at Stuebenville University, as well as the three different Masses I was able to attend in Korea. I am looking forward to attending the Latin Mass held the first Sunday of each month at the Cathedral here in Raleigh, which will be drastically different from the little campus ministry Mass I loved in college.
Visiting churches and finding a church home, however, are completely different things.
There are some non-negotiables when it comes to finding a home church. Mess with the Liturgy? No dice. Is something being taught that is clearly heresy? Absolutely never attending again. Do your musicians have no clue what they are doing and why? Buhbye. (I just…I just can’t stand when the music is distracting. I get it, make a joyful noise doesn’t mean make a pleasant noise, but really??) Incidentally, as I was searching for direction on this topic, I found this document from the Church: Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum. You bet it’s next in my reading queue.
I believe the general rule is to attend the parish whose geographical location you fall in. But what if there are several? Or what if you simply don’t like it, but there is no grave reason not to attend the closest church? Are we obligated to go there anyway? If Jesus is willing to show up, isn’t that enough?
I love, love, love my church back in Pittsburgh. I love the priests and the congregants, the way the Mass is celebrated, the choice of music and the layout of the church. I love everything about it, so it was really hard to leave what I considered near perfection for the unknown. However, I also think it’s important to remember that Mass isn’t being held for me, and attending different masses really helps remind me of that. We attend Mass to worship Christ, which is really easy when we are very comfortable & not so easy when we aren’t. Sometimes when it’s not so easy, we grow because we are being stretched.
As my friend Katie put it, “there are times we are called to serve, and times we are called to be served.” Perhaps a parish doesn’t exactly make me feel all warm and fuzzy every time I leave Mass; that doesn’t mean they love Christ any less, or hunger any less for growth. That’s when I should ask myself, “what can I do for my brothers and sisters here?” Too often though I say “well, that was a bust. Hopefully I find a better church soon!” I can be really judgmental about Mass; there are a lot of things I simply don’t like that other people do. What do I do then?
My approach thus far has been to go to the churches closest to me and try each Mass time at least twice. Luckily for me, the closest church to me also happens to be the one that I look forward to attending the most. But I do try to remember that if Jesus can show up, so can I.
I asked a group of my friends how they choose the parish they attend. Their answers were really helpful and encouraged me to look even deeper into the right reasons to attend a church. And now I’d like to ask you: How do you decide what parish you will belong to?